Motivating myself to swim

Tonight I went swimming. Well, “tonight” means Friday night, which is when I’m writing this but it won’t actually be published until Sunday. I swam fairly regularly for a while but I haven’t been since February – possibly haven’t been since I did my lengths in Laugardalslaug’s warm Olympic-size outdoor pool. But I know I’m being lazy and my right arm has had the quivers this week, as if the muscles – and in my caving and climbing days I had good arm muscles! – are so weakened that holding a glass is getting too much for them, and my leg hurt and it all made me feel like I needed to go out and do something a bit physical. Fridays aren’t good for swimming because all my properly local pools have lessons or club nights on Fridays.

So I looked a little further afield and discovered Broadstone Junction Leisure Centre. I grew up five or ten minutes from there and I’ve never actually been. It advertises itself as the “warmest pool in the area” – only a degree or two cooler than the so-called hot tubs at Kalev Spa in Tallinn (possibly more to come on that subject later). It’s very pleasant if you’re there to play but I very reluctantly have to say that it’s a bit uncomfortably warm if you’re there to swim lengths. It’s also only a 20m pool, rather than the standard 25m, so I have to recalculate everything. I know that 40 lengths is a kilometre and 63 and a bit is a mile. I tend to swim 40 lengths minimum, so in this smaller pool, I had to do fifty.

That missing five metres makes a lot of difference. 50 shorter lengths felt like a lot less than 40 longer ones. I can hold my breath the entire length of the thing. And it’s shallow at each end and deeper in the middle, and by deeper, I mean it comes up to around my shoulders if my feet are flat on the floor. But I don’t really notice when I’m swimming. Often I end up kicking the floor at the shallow end but I didn’t here, so that was nice. Review: mixed feelings on the temperature. Nice pool. Nice big window the length of the pool (technically it overlooks the car park but the car park is lower so from water level, all you can see are the trees that surround it. So acceptable view too.)

Once upon a time I was a pretty good swimmer. These days, my legs can’t swim front crawl, so I just pull them along behind me and I know style-wise I’m more “I can swim for exercise and survival” than perfect technique.

I’ve been swimming since probably before I could walk and I had lessons every Monday up until I was ten or eleven. We also had lessons at school from about Year Three onwards and I just couldn’t comprehend how some of my classmates were struggling to paddle across the width of the pool in armbands when I was making my way through my distance badges.


Here I am aged not quite two. I have no idea where I am – it’s too shallow for a pool but it’s also too clean and blue for the sea. Maybe it’s the pool in Corfu and it’s one of those that you walk down into instead of going down the steps. My mum loves to tell that story – they’d leave me strapped into my buggy dressed like this, beside the pool and whenever I felt like it, I’d undo my straps and hurl myself into the pool, to the horror of “the Londoners”, while my parents casually went “Oh, she’s fine, she can swim” and left me to it. I don’t know how old I was when we went to Corfu but it was before my sister was born, and I was two years and nine months when she came along, so I was pretty small when I was throwing myself unsupervised into the pool.


This is my swimming towel. I haven’t used it in years – since I was ten or eleven, in fact – and so many of the badges are falling off. I think there are two Mother & Baby badges that never went on there – my sister has them on her towel but I think mine went on a swimsuit when I was tiny. I can see my 5, 10, 25, 50, 200, 400, 600 and 800 metre badges. 100 is clearly missing – probably that circle of loose threads – and I know I got my 1000 metres too. That was a big deal, the night you did your 1000 metres, and tonight I’ve swum 1000 metres and felt like I was taking it easy because I was feeling lazy and haven’t swum for ages.

My point is that I see you can now buy STA distance badges online and I think I might bully myself into swimming more with the promise of a new badge for my camp blanket. I did 2500 metres once – 100 lengths. If I can drag myself up to the level of doing it again, I will buy myself that badge. That’s my starting target. The new badges go all the way up to 5000 metres, so I’ve got four badges to work towards. There we go, there’s an incentive to swim more.